Suspended Coffee Movement Gives Warm Drinks To Those Who Can’t Afford Them


This story will warm your heart:

A tourist is having a coffee in a caffe bar in Naples. A well dressed gentleman walks in, approaches the cash register, and asks to pay for “a coffee, and a suspended coffee.” The barista hands him a single cup, he drinks his coffee, and leaves the bar. The patron watches curiously,

The barista answers:

“Right after the war, many gentlemen had lost everything they had, and couldn’t even afford coffee. Now, being that black hot liquid pleasure not considered a treat, but rather a basic human right in the life of any Neapolitan, those gentlemen who could still afford to have one, took a habit of paying for two: one they drank, the other was credited, to be had by the first less fortunate peer who would casually walk in the bar. The bartender would then say: “would you like a coffee, sir?” Which meant: There is a coffee paid for you, if you can’t afford one.”

The donor and the recipient remain anonymous to each other, to protect generosity, pride, and the pleasure of coffee beyond hardships.

The story was first recounted on a travel blog by The Accidental Tourist in 2011, but it turns out the “suspended coffee” movement is gaining in popularity in Europe and around the world. Modeled after the Italian “caffe sospeso” tradition, the modern goodwill initiative seeks to put warm drinks in the hands of those who struggle to make ends meet.

According to The Raw Story, more than 150 cafes in Bulgaria have officially joined the movement, which has also spawned several Facebook pages. When cafes agree to participate, customers can ask if there are any “suspended coffees” available. If there are, they are given a free beverage — no questions asked — thanks to the kindness of an anonymous stranger. The Bulgarian cafes reportedly use a pot of small cards or bottle caps to count the number of coffees already paid for that are available for new customers.

While the suspended coffee tradition started in Naples, challenging economic times have reinvigorated the movement. In some places, you can not only order a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or warm meal.

Wouldn’t it be great if more cafés or even grocery stores in the United States provided customers with the option of purchasing a meal for someone who needs one? How do you think it could be set up to make it feasible for the participating stores and also prevent abuse?

Photo: Washington Post